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USNS Sealift Atlantic (T-AO 172).

USNS Sealift Atlantic (T-AO 172).
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Design: Private
Displacement (tons): 6,786 light, 34,000 full
Dimensions (feet): 587' oa, 567' wl x 84' e/wl x 35' max nav/limit
Armament: none
Accommodations: 25 civilian, 2 cadets
Speed (kts.): 16
Propulsion (HP): 14,000
Machinery: 2 geared diesels, 1 screw

168SEALIFT PACIFIC20 Jun 1972Todd, San Pedro29 Nov 197213 Oct 197314 Aug 1974
169SEALIFT ARABIAN SEA20 Jun 1972Todd, San Pedro5 Mar 197326 Jan 19746 Feb 1975
170SEALIFT CHINA SEA20 Jun 1972Todd, San Pedro15 Oct 197320 Apr 197419 May 1975
171SEALIFT INDIAN OCEAN20 Jun 1972Todd, San Pedro30 Jan 197427 Jul 197429 Aug 1975
172SEALIFT ATLANTIC20 Jun 1972Bath Iron Works23 Apr 197326 Jan 197426 Aug 1974
173SEALIFT MEDITERRANEAN20 Jun 1972Bath Iron Works9 Mar 19739 Mar 19746 Nov 1974
174SEALIFT CARIBBEAN20 Jun 1972Bath Iron Works23 Jul 19738 Jun 197410 Feb 1975
175SEALIFT ARCTIC20 Jun 1972Bath Iron Works6 Feb 197431 Aug 197422 May 1975
176SEALIFT ANTARCTIC20 Jun 1972Bath Iron Works29 Apr 197426 Oct 19741 Aug 1975

T-AONameTEnd charterStrikeDisposalFateSale
168SEALIFT PACIFICT1994None?1994RTO15 Feb 1995
169SEALIFT ARABIAN SEAT1995None?1995RTO2 Mar 1995
170SEALIFT CHINA SEAT1995None?1995RTO18 Apr 1995
171SEALIFT INDIAN OCEANT1995None?1995RTO2 May 1995
172SEALIFT ATLANTICT1994None?1994RTO4 Apr 1995
173SEALIFT MEDITERRANEANT1994None?1994RTO18 Apr 1995
174SEALIFT CARIBBEANT1995None?1995RTO4 Apr 1995
175SEALIFT ARCTICT1995None?1995RTO4 Apr 1995
176SEALIFT ANTARCTICT1995None?1995RTO4 Apr 1995

Class Notes:
The FY 1968 program as of February 1966 included a new construction T-AO. The Department of Defense felt that it needed 9 new ships to replace the remaining World War II T2 tankers then being used by MSTS. The replacements were to be built in the usual way to Navy designs and under Navy budgets, and a design was developed for a FY 1968 T-AO whose characteristics included a 36,100 ton displacement, 675'oa length, 94' beam, 32' full load draft, steam turbine propulsion, 20 knot speed, 32,000 SHP, twin screws, and a modern configuration with a single deckhouse aft. However a surge in Vietnam War expenditures caused funding in FY 1968 and 1969 for Navy shipbuilding to evaporate and the tankers were dropped before the submission of the FY 1968 budget.

MSTS in conjunction with MARAD then turned to a build-and-charter program under which operating contracts would be assigned to companies for a set period, usually five years, making it possible for them to build ships in expensive US shipyards knowing they had assured income. (The ships thus had no Navy design numbers or FY assignments.) A 1968 DoD study called for 25,000-ton (deadweight) tankers and, although commercial interests considered this size too small for commercial use, a conditional award was made to Central Gulf Lines for the construction in the following year of nine such tankers to be bareboat chartered to MSTS for an initial period of five years with options to extend to 20 years. The operator could not complete the needed financial arrangements, however, and the award was terminated in early 1969. The project was revived and on June 21, 1972 an agreement was made with Marine Transport Lines, Inc., Citicorp Leasing, Inc., and Salomon Brothers to construct nine tankers at two yards, the ships again to be leased for five years with options for a total of twenty years. The ships were ordered by the Marine Ship Leasing Corp. under this program, delivered to the Irving Trust Co. as owner, and chartered by them to MSC on the dates shown above. Built with medium-speed diesels and capable of carrying 25,000 deadweight tons of fuel at 16 knots, the ships only required a crew of 26 and could handle four different products. They were sometimes called "Handy Size Tankers (HST)".

By 1975 the nine SEALIFTs had replaced the T-2s in the MSC nucleus fleet. In 1978 the navy created the new classification symbol AOT, "Transport Oiler," for the MSC tankers that carried oil from point to point rather than delivering it to fleet units, and on 14 September 1978 effective 30 September 1978 CNO reclassified AO 168-176 to AOT 168-176. According to Dr. Mercogliano (source citation below), the ships encountered problems with their final contract operator. In April 1990, the International Marine Carriers, Inc. (IMC) assumed the fourth five-year option of the 9 Sealift-class tankers from Marine Transport Lines. According to a later Government Accounting Office report, MSC failed to oversee the maintenance of the ships by the charter operator and to ensure that qualified and fully staffed crews were available. In addition the fixed-price charter contract used to save money backfired because the need to ensure that funds were available to correct unexpected casualties prevented expenditures on routine maintenance. When these ships completed their final charter contracts in 1994 and 1995 they did so under a stigma of mismanagement if not worse.

The end of charter and RTO (return to owner) years are estimated above on the basis that they probably came around 20 years from delivery, there having been four five-year options in the charters. The sale dates above are the commercial sales in 1995 by the ships' owners after the ships were returned to them. All of the ships came under the Panamanian flag after these sales.

Ship Notes:
168SEALIFT PACIFICTo RDF (rapid deployment force) 12 Aug 1980. Merc. PATTY ANN 1995. BU Alang 29 Jun 2003, work began 4 Jul 2003.
169SEALIFT ARABIAN SEAMerc. SAPHIL 1995. BU Alang 23 Feb 2000.
170SEALIFT CHINA SEAMerc. SANTA AMBROGIO 1995. BU Alang 9 Mar 2000.
171SEALIFT INDIAN OCEANMerc. SANTA ANNA 1995. BU Alang 2 Jun 2000.
172SEALIFT ATLANTICMerc. MAVRA 1995. BU Alang 5 Jul 2000.
173SEALIFT MEDITERRANEANDelivered by builder 7 Nov 1974. Merc. SAN MARCO 1995. BU Alang 28 Dec 1999.
174SEALIFT CARIBBEANMerc. SANTA CHIARA 1995, Peruvian Navy (BAP) LOBITOS (ATP-153) Feb 1998. Provided with an underway replenishment capability in a refit completed Nov 1998 and also operated in revenue commercial service. By 2010 was Navy storage tanker in Callao Bay. BU 21 Sep 2011.
175SEALIFT ARCTICMerc. VANDOU 1995. BU Alang 6 Jun 2000.
176SEALIFT ANTARCTICMerc. RENATA II 1995. BU India Jul 2000.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 18 Sep 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: Thomas Wildenberg, Gray Steel and Black Oil (Annapolis, 1996), Salvatore R. Mercogliano, "Tankers: Fuel for Thought (Military Sea Transportation Service Tankers)," at www.usmm.org/msts/tankers.html